From the good people at Spacing Toronto…specifically Nicole Bruun-Meyer…
I recently attended a community meeting regarding the redevelopment proposal for 2055-2057 Danforth Avenue, at the intersection of Danforth and Woodbine. This site, empty since 2001, is slated for a 12-storey condominium with retail space at the ground level. The reason for the community meeting, held by Councillor Sandra Bussin, was because of a rezoning application for the site, which would allow the developer the extra building height.
Prish Jain, of TACT Design, presented the concept for the new building, showing its footprint on the overall site, with its affect on sun and privacy for the local residents. This was followed up with remarks by Leontine Major, Senior Planner, City of Toronto Planning Department and then a question and answer period. The gathering, which attracted about 50 attendees, was a chance for the local residents to raise concerns on specifically the height of the proposed building. The current bylaw allows for five-storeys, while Toronto’s Official Plan suggests a density of nine-storeys for this area.
The site is quite unique, with no real precedent for its development. It fronts onto Danforth Avenue, while also having access from Woodbine Avenue. The back part of the plot is directly adjacent to residential backyards, providing a high impact on the direct community. It also covers two different planning designations, the front, along Danforth, is considered Mixed Use Area, while the rear is under Neighbourhoods. These two designations have different planning criteria, height restrictions, density allowances and objectives. This creates its own challenges for the site and the surrounding areas. Within the ‘mixed use’ portion of the site, the height limit allowed is 14 and 12 metres, whereas the ‘neighbourhood’ areas have a limit of 10 metres. In Section 4.2 of the Official Plan, it distinguishes between Apartment Neighbourhoods and low-rise Neighbourhoods, since, for the former, “a greater scale of buildings is permitted and different scale-related criteria are needed to guide development.” The predominent height in this area of the Danforth is three to four storeys high, so whether this proposal is the City’s suggested 9-storeys or the designed 12-storeys, it will be the tallest structure in the vicinity.
The site also falls into the Avenues category of the Official Plan, which according to Section 2.2.3, states Avenues are “important corridors along major streets where reurbanization is anticipated and encouraged to create new housing and job opportunities, while improving the pedestrian environment, the look of the street, shopping opportunities and transit service for community residents.”
The predominant concern of the community was the height issue, but they were also concerned with losing the character of their neighbourhood, as one attendee said, “ruining the uniqueness of this area,” while others are worried about the big box commercial retailers pushing the local business owners out. However, as a local business owner pointed out, “from the commercial side, if we do not have more people, we won’t survive.” From the residents to the back of the site, they are obviously concerned about over-looking and privacy.
The proposed building steps back from Danforth, starting at 4-storeys to 9-storeys, 12-storeys and back down to 4-storeys. The Architects have also pushed the bulk of the building into the mixed-use zone, keeping the underground parking entrance and drop-off point in the neighbourhood zone, using the access from Woodbine Avenue. It has incorporated the garbage and recycling bins within the building to keep them out of view of the residential neighbours.
I will be writing about the future of this development and the implementation of city-wide planning guidelines within smaller communities. There is a concern about losing our ‘neighbourhoods’ and their uniqueness, however Toronto is a growing and changing city, which presents its own challenges to intensification and reurbanization.
As for DECA’s position on this; we will be having a special meeting on this issue in particular and at that point will be deciding what our role and official position will be. Stay tuned.